In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Information and Communication Technology for Development

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Datasets and Research Projects
  • Journals

Communication Information and Communication Technology for Development
Philip Howard
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 September 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 February 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0084


Information and communication technologies have an immense impact on the opportunities and constraints for social development in poor countries. The study of these impacts is sometimes called information communication technology for development (ICT4D), and a growing number of scholars have become specifically interested in tracing how digital technologies diffuse globally and how they change the opportunities for political action, economic prosperity, and cultural production. Almost by definition, most of this research concerns countries other than the advanced democracies and wealthy economies. Research on technology diffusion and developing countries draws scholars from across the social sciences, including anthropology, communication, computer science, geography, information studies, political science, sociology, public policy, and development studies. Indeed it is more a domain of inquiry than a subdiscipline.

General Overviews

While there are a few good edited collections and single-authored books on this topic, none was purposely built as a textbook to introduce undergraduates to such research. Research on technology diffusion in the developing world is not new, but research on the diffusion of information technologies is. In part this means that much of the cutting-edge research appears as case studies in edited books and handbooks. Unwin 2009 advances the basic argument that information and communication technologies (ICTs) can be strategically used to improve the quality of life for people living in poor countries, so when used as a textbook this can work well with several other kinds of texts, including edited collections of theorists about information societies (Webster and Blom 2003), edited collections of case studies (Torero Cullen and Braun 2006, Mansell, et al. 2009), and public reports issued by intergovernmental agencies or think tanks (World Bank 2009, Dutta and Mia 2010).

  • Dutta, Soumitra, and Irene Mia, eds. 2010. The global information technology report 2009–2010: ICT for Sustainability. Illus. ed. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

    For several years the network readiness indicators remained popular among policy makers associated with the world summit on the information society. Most scholars have found such composite indicators to be of limited value in research.

  • Mansell, Robin, Chrisanthi Avgerou, Danny Quah, and Roger Silverstone, eds. 2009. The Oxford handbook of information and communication technologies. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199548798.001.0001

    Handbooks can sometimes offer a potpourri of disconnected chapters. While this book is not dedicated to case studies from developing countries, the diversity of country coverage makes it a good introduction to the varied cultural responses to new information and communication technologies.

  • Torero Cullen, Máximo, and Joachim von Braun, eds. 2006. Information and communication technologies for development and poverty reduction: The potential of telecommunications. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

    A straightforward collection of country and project experiences in which communication industries and telecommunications policy were a focus for concentrated development with mostly positive economic consequences.

  • Unwin, Tim, ed. 2009. ICT4D: Information and communication technology for development. 1st ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    One of the first single-authored manuscripts on this topic, Unwin’s book advances information about the costs and benefits of spending social resources on communications infrastructure. While less of a priority for societies in complex humanitarian disasters, information and communication technologies are an important infrastructure for improving the quality of life in all stages of development.

  • Webster, Frank, with Raimo Blom, eds. 2003. The information society reader. 1st ed. London: Routledge.

    This is a wide-ranging edited collection of concept papers on different aspects of the information society organized around key terms and excerpts from key thinkers.

  • World Bank. 2009. 2009 information and communications for development: Extending reach and increasing impact. Washington, DC: World Bank.

    The vast majority of quantitative data that researchers use come from the World Bank’s world development indicators. But the World Bank itself publishes technical summaries of the trends it finds interesting, and these books—while usually expensive—can be usefully paired with a scholarly text.

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